Fertilizer decisions

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Mon, 23 Mar 2009 11:46:11 PDT
I use a soluble complete fertilizer on my bulbs that are grown in 
containers, and the current difficult winter makes it difficult to 
decide when and how much to apply.

First, during periods of heavy snow rabbits invaded the bulb frames 
and chewed off the emerging foliage of a number of genera (Crocus, 
Ornithogalum, Tecophilaea, and all the Themidaceae, primarily). This 
won't kill the plants, but it will certainly set them back. Since the 
nutrients the plants draw from the soil (i.e., the fertilizer) must 
be converted to stored food by photosynthesis -- a physiological 
process that occurs in the leaves -- it seems that applying 
fertilizer to plants that lack a normal amount of foliage is 
unproductive. Is it actually harmful?

Second, it has been colder than average all winter. Usually I'd be 
applying the second of three spring "feeds" right now. But does the 
cold temperature mean that the plants will not be growing as actively 
(I notice that many of them are flowering on shorter stems than 
usual), and therefore be unable to utilize as much nutrient?

I'd be glad to hear comments on this from some of our members who 
have professional knowledge on this subject.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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